I think pork can be a really fun meat to cook with because it goes surprisingly well with fruit, and in this case, pomegranate.
Pomegranate is a curious fruit if you’ve never worked with it. The flavor is kind of hard to describe: sweet but tart, as well as both dark and somewhat tannic (that mouth-drying feeling you get from red wine). Given the history of this fruit, pomegranate can add either a real middle-eastern or Mediterranean flare to a dish, which is just what we’re going for. We’ll rub the pork with a middle-eastern styled dry rub and glaze it with the dark, subtle fruity flavors of pomegranate mixed with the complex sweetness you get from basalmic and fresh rosemary. This is also my entry for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.
- 1 lb pork tenderloin
- 2 pomegranates (which is equivalent to roughly 1-1.5 cups of pomegranate juice)
- 1 medium-sized sweet onion
- 4-8 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp basalmic vinegar
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 1 tsp flour
- Dry rub: (pretty small amount, but you don’t need a whole lot)
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
The most labor intensive part of this recipe is getting the pomegranate juice (unless you chose to just buy a bottle of the stuff). If you’ve never handled a pomegranate before, you’ll want to know what you’re up against. Basically, a pomegranate contains hundreds of little ruby pieces of fruit encased seed in a haphazard arrangement of bitter, pithy membrane. These little pieces are the edible part of the pomegranate, and getting all of them out is like walking through a minefield. If this is your first time, either put on a red shirt or an old shirt that you don’t particularly care about–one wrong move and you’ll be wearing pomegranate. I promise.
Ultimately, you want to get every piece of fruit out of the pomegranate into a bowl. While the seeds are edible (eat one!), we don’t need them for our sauce, except for a handful of fresh pieces for the final garnish (which you should set aside now so you don’t forget). So carefully start crushing your bowl of pome-jewels to get the juice out. Whether it be a masher, a smaller bowl, or just your hands (this actually works best), just squeeze out as much juice as you can and strain it out into a bowl. Set this aside.
Now, in a small bowl, mix up the dry spices. You want to rub all of this into your pork. Ideally, you would get a whole pork tenderloin, but if you’re stuck like I was with a smaller, pre-sliced piece of meat, you have an added challenge: don’t turn your meat into rubber.
If you have pre-sliced: I rubbed each slice with the dried spices and pan fried both sides of the meat on medium heat for 3-4 minutes each and then set them aside.
If you instead have whole tenderloin: Pork tenderloin is better suited to slower cooking, so I would recommend that you instead get a whole tenderloin and work with that. You should rub your tenderloin with the spices and briefly pan sear it on all sides just to brown it. Then prepare your sauce (explained further down) while the oven preheats to 375? F. The plan is to reduce the sauce down a bit and to use some of it (not all!) as a glaze on your pork while it roasts, roasting the tenderloin in the oven while periodically basting it with the sauce. You want a spicy, fruity, flavorful crust with a juicy, tender center. You’ll want to roast this for 20-25 minutes.
Now, dice up your onion coarsely and the garlic finely. Fry these two in olive oil on medium-high heat until the onion is translucent and softened, amounting to roughly 10 minutes. These guys will flavor the sauce but also stand up on their own as a side with your pork.
Pour your remaining ingredients into the pan with the garlic and onions. You want to simmer the sauce down on medium heat for 10 minutes or so in order to reduce it and thicken it up a bit. The basalmic will bring a really interesting flavor to the pomegranate and the rosemary should infuse it with a wonderful aroma. To counter some of these really heavy flavors, the honey will bring a different kind of sweetness to this sauce that will both round it out and thicken it up. Also, don’t bother pulling the rosemary leaves off of the sprig–it will make it easier to remove them later when we’re done cooking. And finally, a pinch of flour or a few extra minutes of heat can help to thicken the sauce up if its looking too watery (depends on how full and juicy your pomegranates were).
If you have pre-sliced meat: you should place the partially-cooked pork in with the still simmering sauce, heating these guys together for about 5 minutes.
If you went the oven roasting route instead, you should take your roast out of the oven, let it sit for 10 or so minutes (so that the meat can absorb the juices again, rather than just pouring out when you cut it), and then slice and plate it. In this case, you’ll ladle on the sauce when you plate it.
For plating, I laid down a bed of the sauteed onions (wouldn’t know it from my photo, it seems), placed the sliced pork on top, and topped with fresh pomegranate jewels for garnish and a nice fresh, fruity crunch. I accompanied this with saffron rice studded with some golden raisins and cashews.